I think it depends on region and availability both in-store, and online. Many, many people were able to grab the Wal-Mart lanterns, but no stores around us ever had any in stock, in fact only one store ever showed them even available and my order was cancelled two hours after placing it. Likewise with Big Lots. Our local Sam's Club had displays but jumped right into Christmas stock and I think thre might have been a total of one week worth of actual in-store merch to buy. So my region is just one that is behind the curve that everyone else has been fortunate enough to be a part of.
For my thoughts though, it's more about the quality of what you can get, when you can. Our Lowes was the first to start stocking anything, many things were kind of neat, and I jumped at grabbing their 5' skellies. However, the ones that Home Depot (eventually) put out for sale are just that much higher in quality and appearance especially considering the price is pretty much the same. Even not counting the variations, just the quality and adjustability is miles better than others.
Admittedly I haven't been in the mix prior to this year so I can't compare how the store and stock experiences were compared to previous ones, so that might factor into thoughts too for some people. Our Lowes started strong, and beat Home Depot to stocking shelves by a good week or two. But once HD had theirs out, certain items just did it better. Overall it did feel like many stores had late starts around here, and then only had a very short window to keep items out before moving on. Perhaps it was that short window that has made it seem worse than other years? I started purchasing online over summer though for larger animatronics, from various places just to try to avoid having to rush around as the holiday approached.